I took a woodturning class last fall, had a great time, and learned quite a bit about the craft/art. The instructor’s handshake was like a vice grip, three hours later, I knew why. Had a hard time typing the next day, but I got the hang of things, my successive attempts showed improvement. I really liked the meditativeness and total focus required to practice the craft (art would come later).
In the time since, I’ve attemped to collect the neccessary pieces to give my vintage shopsmith this added versatility. The previous owners didn’t use it as a lathe, so I’ve had to cobble together a number of specific components (new and used) mostly from fellow e-bayers, selling off their old ones for parts.
I thought I had everything needed by spring, but the center in the tail stock was causing friction burns on the wood, and smoking considerably whether the wood was green or not. Figuring that this was a design flaw of the shopsmith – not really built to be a lathe so much as a table saw, drill press, jointer and sander – I hung up the chisels and set out looking for a good deal on a real lathe… a purchase I had to keep postponing.
Unbeknownst to me, hidden among the odds and ends in my unkempt shop was a live center, which I uncovered last week (when making my table saw top) I knew I’d be all set to get turning again – it spun with the wood! I could pick up where I left off, 9 months ago… and hopefully remember something from the experience.
I chucked on a 8″ piece of maple, and it turned beautifully. I tested out my various chisels to see what I remembered; roughing, beads, coves, parting, and I made what can only be described as an oversized, embellished chess pawn. Next I tried a 6″ piece of poplar – left over scrap from the closet rod I hung in my daughters room. This turned like a dream. Eventually it took on the likeness of a slightly oversized tapered bottle stopper.
Two more pieces of maple (from the same log as the first) tore out and flexed uncontrollably. I added those to the firewood pile.
I found, as I did last year, the process to be great meditation, allowing me to free my mind from the distractions of the day, in a fun and creative way. Also, quite happy that my hands don’t ache, as they did the day following my first class – otherwise you woudn’t be reading this just yet… seems I remember something afterall!
Photographed left to right; maple, poplar, and mahogany. All finished with walnut oil. I like the look of leaving some of the bark on the maple piece. The mahogany tore out quite a bit, and was the only of the three to start off square in cross section (left over from a deck railing) I find the design to be heavy.
I also tried a piece of lilac. the piece was cracked, but despite that it turned nearly glass-smooth. I’m going to try experimenting with different forms woods (if only a little bit) everyday. Eventually I’ll start making things on purpose.